Pentagon on KC-X: it’s about the airplane, not the jobs

I’m as astonished as everyone else about Northrop Grumman/EADS’ win in the KC-X contest. It’s only February and this may yet be the aerospace story of the year. The Pentagon is stressing that it’s going to talk to Boeing on or around March 12 before it talks to everyone else about the detail of why it’s done what it’s done – but in fact at the same time it gave some pretty strong pointers about what went on. I’ve listed the key quotes from the Pentagon press conference below…The individuals who delivered the media briefing were: Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne, Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Duncan McNabb, Assistant Secretary of Defense Sue Payton, and Air Mobility Commander Gen. Arthur Lichte

Here’s the most interesting material – all in response to questions from reporters:

…the five factors that were important to this decision: in mission capability, in proposal risk, in the area of past performance, in cost price, and in something we call an integrated fleet aerial refueling rating. So I would tell you that overall, Northrop Grumman did have strong areas in aerial refueling and in airlift, as well as their past performance was excellent and they offered great advantage to the government in cost price, and they had an excellent integrated fleet aerial refueling rating.

Actually the cost price was one of the least important factors as we laid out the RFP. Mission capability and proposal risk and past performance were the top three, and they were all equal. And then cost price and the integrated aerial refueling factor came in after that.

Payton: Okay. Yeah, well, the Darleen Druyan situation was a-half-a-decade ago, and we have proven in this source selection that we have done everything according to the federal acquisition regulations. We have been extremely open and transparent. We have had the DOD IG come in and take a look at all of our audit trail from the document that we got from the JROC, our Joint Requirements Oversight Council, as we built the systems requirements document and as we built the RFP. We’ve had the GAO in to take a look at all of our processes and what we were doing, and we have had tremendous peer review by OSD. And Secretary Young has sent a team in. We had people from the Army and Navy that were acquisition experts. And so we have had a very thorough review of what we’re doing. We’ve got it nailed, and I don’t see any relationship to what has gone on in the past at all.

Payton: (Asked about jobs.) Well, I’d be happy to respond to that. I — the RFP is not involved with — the requirements of the RFP were not such that this was taken into consideration. The RFP had to do with requirements that the warfighter needed, and we balanced the requirements of the warfighter with the best value for the taxpayer, relative to how much this system is going to cost and how well it’s going to perform.

Lichte: (Asked about aircraft size.) Well, I — from a warfighter’s perspective, and I know the team looked at a whole number of things, but from my perspective, I can sum it up in one word: more.
More passengers, more cargo, more fuel to offload, more patients that we can carry, more availability, more flexibility and more dependability. And so from my aspect, the team did tremendous work and now we will take that and put it into the fight.

It certainly gives us flexibility. And what I will tell you gives us even more flexibility is the fact that it has a receiver receptacle so that it can give gas or it can take gas, and it also has the ability to pass gas by way of the boom or it can pass gas by way of drogue. That gives us all a flexibility, and so we can have a mix of aircraft up forward in the fight, that when the time is right, that tanker can offload all the remaining gas into another tanker. And so it gives us the flexibility for the warfighter’s point of view. And that was all factored in through this process. So I am very happy with what we get, and we’ll put it to good use.

The entire transcript is available here at the US Department of Defense site.

And you can listen to the audio here.

In Seattle there is utter fury over the decision. Although Boeing itself is naturally keeping its power dry.

In Mobile , Alabama – where they see themselves as on course to be the world’s third aerospace metropolis – they’re in ecstasy.

The Pentagon is desperate to avoid a challenge. Some US observers are saying that as it appears that Northrop Grumman was ahead in all five of the selection criteria, Boeing would find it extremely hard to win the legal war even if it won a battle.

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One Response to Pentagon on KC-X: it’s about the airplane, not the jobs

  1. GM Cassel AMH1(AW) USN RET March 6, 2008 at 6:05 am #

    Assistant Secretary Payton should be relieved of her post and charged under Article 134 of the UCMJ.

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